A resilient new year

And so the Julian calendar has finished a cycle and a new one is beginning. It’s traditional to wish people a happy new year at this point, and yet I’m hesitant. For the past few years I feel like we’ve all been saying, “Thank goodness that shitshow of a year is over, this new one will be better!” and then the next year has been a shitshow too. I’ve stopped saying that sort of thing; it almost feels like we’ll jinx it.

What does it mean to wish someone a happy new year anyway? What even is happiness?

I was listening to a podcast ages ago (so I can’t recall which one) that said something like, what actually makes us happiest is to have challenges that are just hard enough, ones that we can overcome and feel a sense of achievement. No challenges makes us bored; insurmountable challenges make us, understandably, frustrated and eventually hopeless.

2021’s sure to bring challenges. It already is. I don’t think we can be happy, exactly, when people are dying by the thousands from a pandemic, American democracy is kind of a train wreck, and we’re still pulling fossil fuels out of the ground and burning them.

I know that sounds pessimistic. I don’t mean to. These things are just reality. It’s how we deal with them that will shape what 2021 feels like, be it happy, frustrating, hopeless, or something else.

What I wish for my friends, and for everyone, is a resilient new year. I hope we will have the strength, and also the flexibility and creativity to face whatever 2021 throws at us. That by simplifying our lives and not trying to be too efficient, we’ll give ourselves the breathing room to deal with crises as they occur. That through connectedness and community we’ll create a web of support for when things are tough.

The photograph for this blog post is some dandelions* from my backyard. After a few hot days, one cool night brought them bursting forth. I’m always astonished at the persistence and sheer bloody-mindedness of weeds, how dedicated they are to thriving in the most difficult circumstances, and how beautiful they are despite the stigma against them. May we all be like dandelions in 2021.

* technically Hypochaeris radicata, aka cats-ear or false dandelion, but they’re all commonly called dandelion round these parts, and have similar behaviour and properties, including being edible!

Alex

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